Yes: Yessongs

ON THIS DATE (39 YEARS AGO)
May 18, 1973 – Yes: Yessongs is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# allmusic 4/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Yessongs is the first live album from Yes, released on this date in May, 1973 as a triple-LP set by Atlantic Records. It reached number 7 on the UK Albums Chart and number 12 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. The album was certified gold in 1973 and platinum in 1998 by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The album is formed of recordings from their supporting world tours for their studio albums, Fragile and Close to the Edge, between February and December 1972. A concert film of the same name was released in 1975 that documents the band’s performances at London’s Rainbow Theatre on 15 and 16 December 1972.
In 1972, Yes’s brand of classically influenced, larger-than-life progressive rock had not yet been supplanted by the vitriol of punk, and concert-going kids would still greet 20-minute songs performed in their entirety with shrieks of delight and up-raised lighters. Yessongs captures the group at the height of both its musical power and popularity. Perhaps surprisingly for such a progressive band, Yes uses the live setting to its advantage, finding musical space to explore even within its complicated arrangements. In some cases, these versions make the album versions sound a bit subdued.
Especially compelling is “And You and I” from Close to the Edge, and a smoking rendition of “Roundabout.” Yessongs serves as a compelling showcase for guitarist Steve Howe, from his intimate solo-acoustic “Mood for a Day” to his scintillating solo on “Yours is No Disgrace,” which seems to float in the air and uncoil like a snake. The playing of the rest of the group is equally impressive, particularly the classically inclined keyboard excursions of Rick Wakeman. Yessongs contains many of the band’s finest compositions, and is one of the definitive live documents of the progressive rock genre.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONES REVIEW
Yes suffers from having too many diverse talents for one group to handle. The differing musical styles of the five musicians cannot easily be integrated into a unified approach. As a result the group has, more often than not, fallen back on a pattern of extended soloing to duck the issue. On this six-sided live album, they do it less than on previous releases (in concert you can’t very well have people strolling offstage all the time) although regrettably there is still far too much of it. Nonetheless, this is their best album in quite a while, far superior to Close to the Edge and Fragile.
Yes’ lead singer and group spokesman is Jon Anderson, a lad blessed with a silver throat and a magnificent range. On the negative side, he writes the group’s lyrics which are both contrived and sometimes senseless, and it has been Jon who has urged the rest of the group (especially Rick Wakeman, keyboards) to solo more, as an outgrowth of his admiration for such soloists as Keith Emerson and John McLaughlin. Wakeman and drummer Alan White have made names for themselves as group members rather than front men (in the Strawbs and Plastic Ono Band/Balls, respectively), and they are most effective in their natural roles. Steve Howe, guitar, is a unique stylist who has helped to define the Yes sound with both his playing and songwriting, but his musical contributions were much more earthshaking (although not recognized as such) and indicative of his extraordinary talents when he led Tomorrow, a psychedelic superband of the late Sixties, Finally there’s Chris Squire, a quiet and musically humble bassist who knows how to exploit the spacey Rickenbacker bass guitar sound, as well as having written the majority of Yes’ songs.
“Perpetual Change” is perhaps the best single track on the album; the group uses dynamics to build crescendos full of emotional impact. Unfortunately, the cut ends with an anticlimactic and monotonous drum solo. “I’ve Seen All Good People” would have been better if the bass/drums weren’t mixed so loud during the acoustic segment—the rumbles around the low edge of the audio spectrum are more distracting than exciting. But the live version of “Roundabout” sounds more full and exciting than the original and “And You and I” is quite invigorating.
In fact, if our interest wasn’t so consistently being diverted by the solos—which ideally could have been reduced in length and number by editing, leaving us with a more wieldy two-record set—I could recomment Yessongs without reservation. But it is impossible to do so with its stop/start energy and beautiful songs continually being interrupted by single instrument rambling that add only length to the album’s timing and nothing to the force of the group’s music. (RS 136)
~ JON TIVEN (June 7, 1973)
TRACKS:
Side one
“Opening (Excerpt from Firebird Suite)” (Igor Stravinsky) – 3:47
“Siberian Khatru” (J. Anderson, S. Howe, R. Wakeman) – 9:03
“Heart of the Sunrise” (Anderson, B. Bruford, C. Squire) – 11:33
Side two
“Perpetual Change” (Anderson, Squire) – 14:11
“And You and I” (Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire) – 9:33
“Cord of Life”
“Eclipse” (Anderson, Bruford, Squire)
“The Preacher the Teacher”
“Apocalypse”
Side three
“Mood for a Day” (Howe) – 2:53
“Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (Wakeman) – 6:37
”Roundabout” (Anderson, Howe) – 8:33
Side four
“I’ve Seen All Good People” (Anderson, Squire) – 7:09
“Your Move” (Anderson)
“All Good People” (Squire)
“Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” (Anderson, Squire) – 13:37
Side five
“Close to the Edge” (Anderson, Howe) – 18:13
“The Solid Time of Change”
“Total Mass Retain”
“I Get Up I Get Down” (Anderson, Squire)
“Seasons of Man”
Side six
“Yours Is No Disgrace” (Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Tony Kaye, Squire) – 14:23
“Starship Trooper” (Anderson, Squire, Howe) – 10:08
“Life Seeker” (Anderson)
“Disillusion” (Squire)
“Würm” (Howe)
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Filed under Alan White, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Yessongs

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